Watch rare early footage of Nirvana thrashing out a powerful set, 1990
As we still come to terms with the likelihood that there won’t be any live music for the next few months we’ve found some solace in going back through some of our favourite band’s long and varied on-stage careers. Next up is Nirvana and this powerful performance in Phoenix which had all the foreshadowing of a Truman Capote novel.
So, sit back and let us take you back to 1990. Before coronavirus, before self-isolation and, perhaps more importantly, before Nirvana’s 1991 breakthrough album Nevermind.
Before Nirvana became one of the biggest rock acts the world has ever known, they were just the kings of a small underground scene. The band had been born in the depths of the North West and had soon begun to play their gritty new rock and roll to the rapturous club circuit audience.
It’s worth remembering that while Nevermind may have propelled the band into stardom, they had an extensive back catalogue of powerhouse tunes. Their debut album, Bleach, is a raw reflection of their soon to be signature style and a host of B-sides and rarities cement their image as underground masters. By 1990, the band were nearing the top of their game.
The 1989 debut album was a sign of things to come but it was in their live performances that the gravity of Nirvana would suddenly dawn on unsuspecting patrons. Nevermind would change their sets into iconographic moments of “I was there” but the years before it held some of the most ferocious and frenetic performances the band would ever muster.
The below video captures one of those performances. Nirvana are at Phoenix’s The Mason Jar back in the February of 1990 and they are on scintillating form. Cobain is captivating from the very first second and Novoselic swings his bass like a sarcastic executioner. The video also features pre-Dave Grohl drummer Chad Channing who would be kicked out of the band only a few months later.
The clip is in amazing quality for a piece of film that’s three decades old and it allows us to fully enjoy the palpable sense of energy that resonates throughout the performance. It also allows us a pre-worldwide fame look at some of their most beloved songs such as ‘Dive’, ‘Breed’ and the perfect, ‘Polly’.
So while there may not be any live music on the horizon we must live in hope that soon enough we will be bouncing up and down in a heaving mass of people, wondering if the pint glass that hit our head was full of water or pee, all the while our favourite band play in front of our eyes. But until then, at least we have the legendary Nirvana at their very best.